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It’s been more than 30 years since the two-man band Wyld Stallyns, better known as Bill and Ted, graced the big screen. If you’re a child of the 1990s (or if you had children in the ‘90s) there’s a good chance words like “bogus” and “bodacious” bring up fond images of their time traveling mission to ace their history final.
In Bill & Ted Face the Music, the duo return once again to teach the world to sing. Or, at least, play air guitar. Much older, but not particularly wiser, they still haven’t managed to write the song that will unite humanity in peace and harmony.
They also haven’t managed to teach their kids not to follow in their slacker footsteps. Though their daughters are in their mid-20s, they still live at home and mostly spend their time listening to their dads’ old CDs and snacking on Cheetos.
Until, that is, an emissary from the future arrives and warns them all that the apocalypse is nigh if Bill and Ted don’t, at last, get their act together and write that song.
If you’re wondering exactly what kind of quantum physics dictates that time and space will collapse if a couple of aging, wannabe rockers don’t compose a new tune, well … best not to look too closely at the internal logic.
The real question: Is this new film an excellent adventure?
On that score, I’m afraid I have to be the bearer of bad news. While it’s kind of amusing to see Jimi Hendrix and Mozart jam out together, the new installment doesn’t do nearly as good a job of playing off our familiarity with historical figures.
Here, Louis Armstrong and a cavewoman are just costumes and accents hovering in the background. There’s nothing half as inspired as when the boys took Napoleon Bonaparte to an ice cream parlor where, of course, the dictator hogged all the chocolate.
But the movie does have some laughs, like the Terminator-style robot whose insecurities get in the way of his job performance, and when Bill and Ted’s wives take them to couples therapy.
The biggest problem, though, is that the daughters tasked with carrying on the musical torch are too much like their fathers. It’s nice that the producers didn’t want to resort to cheap stereotypes of, say, Kardashian copycats. But what they’ve done feels like an awkward lurch at gender parity.
Some stereotypes exist for a reason, and girls don’t make the most believable surfer dudes. Watching the ladies try to mimic Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves’ mannerisms becomes painful after a while. Also painful: a few instances of PG-13 profanity and a couple of flashes of a Last Supper-type image of Jesus. It doesn’t feel malicious, per se, but it’s hard to believe the producers would have treated Mohammed so irreverently as to show him playing a cowbell.
It’s not all sour notes, though. For all its silliness, Bill and Ted carry a welcome message for these troubled times. First, no matter where we come from or what we look like, we can make beautiful music together if we’re willing to share our sound.
Second, and more importantly: Men, if you want to save the world, save your marriages first.
So I wouldn’t recommend dropping $20 to stream Bill & Ted Face the Music now. Eventually, when you can rent it for a few dollars, a movie marathon that starts in San Dimas circa 1989 may be in order. After all, making your kids sit through the greatest hits of your childhood is what parenting is all about.